Local men accused in child sex sting

Four Columbus men have been arrested on child solicitation charges in recent law enforcement operations in Brown and Johnson counties.

Three men were arrested in Brown County as a result of an operation announced on April 14 that produced eight arrests, according to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

Those arrested from Columbus were Kelly D. Barton, 44, 11 S. Mapleton St.; Jeremy L. Melton, 44, 2119 Van Arsdall Court, and Eric McClintic, 36, 13811 E. County Road 200S, deputies said.

Barton and McClintic were charged with a single count of Level 5 felony child solicitation. Melton was charged with two counts of Level 5 child solicitation and is a convicted sex offender, the sheriff’s department said. Barton was additionally charged with Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine, according to court records.

Brown County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Shrader said the operation was “really just targeting those that would solicit minors and then go forward with those acts.” He said those arrested had shown up at a designated meeting location “prepared to have sex with minors.”

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department said on its Facebook page that its operation was joined by the Brown County Prosecutor’s Office and Covenant Rescue Group “to help combat sex and human trafficking. We were targeting those who were preying on underage children.”

The eight arrests in Brown County were made over the course of three nights, the department said.

In Johnson County, Hernan R. Sanchez Hernandez, 32, of Columbus was charged with one count each of child solicitation and prostitution after authorities there announced the results of a three-day sting operation from April 18 to 20 that resulted in 32 arrests.

The Daily Journal of Franklin reported that the operation took place at a property on the 300 block of East County Line Road in Greenwood, and men traveled from as far as Tennessee before being arrested by police. The 32 men, whose ages ranged from 21 to 62, were arrested on charges ranging from child solicitation to making unlawful propositions to drug possession charges.

Collectively, the men were arrested on 61 total charges, according to a news release. Of the 32 men arrested, 20 were from Indianapolis or Marion County; none were from Johnson County.

Members of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department and the Edinburgh Police Department took part in the operation.

“Protecting our children is our number one goal in Johnson County,” Sheriff Duane Burgess said in a press release.

None of those arrested in the Brown County operation were from Brown County. Others arrested on child solicitation charges came from Bedford, Corydon, Indianapolis, Solsberry and Terre Haute.

“It’s typical to get people from other communities, and I think if every community does that same kind of work, I think that’s how you combat child trafficking and sex trafficking,” Shrader said.